Interview with Dr. Vijay Govindarajan, Professor of International Business, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College

Interview with Dr. Vijay Govindarajan, Professor of International Business, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College

Dr. Vijay Govindarajan is an award-winning expert in International Business and author. He has taught at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College since 1985 and is currently the Director of Achtmeyer Center for Global Leadership at Dartmouth.

Dr. Govindarajan earned his MBA and DBA at Harvard University and has authored or co-authored many books and papers on International Business including Management Control Systems, and Strategic Cost Management: The New Tool for Competitive Advantage.

Your Career How and when did you discover you had a talent for business?

Dr. Govindarajan: Purely by accident. I am from India where it is custom that parents make many of the main life decisions. I have three brothers, and my Father put two of them into engineering and another into medicine. Dad told me I would go into commerce. This has proved wonderful for I truly love what I do. What is your management/leadership style?

VG: Two things. First, I always try to pick people who are better than me and appoint myself as leader. Second, my style is hands off - I give people the room they need to excel. What are your favorite career achievements?

VG: One of my MBA students called me and told me that he made $10 million from an idea that he got from one of my lectures. From the list of business books that you have written, what would you consider to be 3 of your best ideas?

VG: First - people matter most. You can have great people and mediocre technology and still succeed but great technology will never overcome a lack of great people. Second - Leaders must be clear about their company's overall strategy since everything flows from it. Third - Companies must continuously reinvent themselves. Strategic innovation is key. What are the most powerful ideas from your book The Quest for Global Dominance?

VG: No company CANNOT call itself a global company. The challenge is how do you create, lead and expand your strategic global business space. What is the mission of The William F. Achtmeyer Center for Global Leadership?

VG: To create and diffuse knowledge about strategy and organization in companies that confront non-linear change. Who were the biggest inspirations for your career?

VG: My Grandfather who was a lawyer. In India, untouchables were at the lowest rung of society with no education or quality jobs to speak of. In the area where he grew up, he would sit under a bunion tree and teach the untouchables school work. Years later, many untouchables came back with a great appreciation for how he helped better their lives by increasing their aspiration levels. The way my Grandfather helped set their sites higher has been an inspiration for me as a teacher to help my students reach higher than they would have otherwise. What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

VG: Walking, tennis, and especially traveling with my family. My 14 year old daughter has already been to 47 countries.

Job Information & Advice For students graduating in international business, what are the great companies to work for and why?

VG: Unilever and Citibank, because they are true global companies, with a global mind set. These companies successfully appear local in the countries in which the are, yet have efficiencies of being truly global. For American students wishing to work abroad after graduation, what are 3 of the most challenging countries to work in and why?

VG: The emerging markets of any country in Africa, Asia, or South America present the greatest challenges.

Education Information & Advice What did you like about your business education?

VG: The most important thing was that my business education helped build a greater sense of confidence in me. Please rank the top 3 countries in the world with regard to the quality of their business education offerings.

VG: The United States, Europe as a whole, and really there is no country I would consider to be a close third. What are the top schools for a graduate degree in international business?

VG: 1 - The European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD) in France. 2 - The Harvard Business School 3 - The International Institute for Management Development in Lussane, Switzerland. In your opinion, How accurate are popular rankings of business schools?

VG: Generally, schools that are ranked in the top 20 should be there, but specifically who is found to be #1 and who is #20 is questionable. What qualities or other considerations make for a successful international business student?

VG: Those who have spent time in other countries have a great advantage in being qualified to be international business students. What factors should students consider when choosing an international business program for them? What types of programs should they try to avoid? What do they look out for?

VG: The most important factor is the prestige of the school which is clearly a function of several things. Attending a prestigious business school puts yourself at a different level in career graph. What advice can you give to students who are trying to get accepted into the best international business programs?

VG: Aside for the basics of getting considered like GMAT scores, students can gain an advantage by differentiating themselves in areas that are important to the schools of which they are applying whether that be leadership, entreprenuership, compassion, etc.

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